Spotlight: Battle of Okinawa

On Easter Sunday, April 1, 1945, American troops landed on Okinawa and began their 82-day fight to secure the island. For the Allies, capturing Okinawa was a crucial part of their plan to invade mainland Japan. For the Japanese, holding on to Okinawa was crucial to their ability to defend the mainland. And trapped between the two opposing forces were the Okinawan people.   

The Battle of Okinawa was the largest amphibious landing in the Pacific theater during WWII. However, U.S. troops remained unopposed as they landed onto the beaches. Having made use of Okinawa’s rugged terrain, setting up defense lines among dense foliage, hills, caves, and trees, the Japanese Army had been ordered to watch and wait for the Americans. In the days after the initial landing, Marine and Army ground forces began to make their way inland. What followed was the deadliest fight of the Pacific island campaign. 

The Battle of Okinawa lasted until June 22, 1945, when the island was finally declared secured. In terms of casualties, according to the National WWII Museum:

“Victory at Okinawa cost more than 49,000 American casualties, including about 12,000 deaths. Among the dead was the Tenth Army’s commander, Lieutenant General Simon Bolivar Buckner Jr., killed on June 18 by a sniper during the final offensive. He was the highest ranking American general killed in action during World War II. About 90,000 Japanese combatants died in the fighting, but deaths among Okinawan civilians may have reached 150,000.”

April 1, 2020 marked the 75th anniversary of the landing on Okinawa. In remembrance, the Unwritten Record presents Marine photographs documenting the Battle of Okinawa.

Local Photo ID: 127-GR-107-123156. Original Caption: “INTO THE VALLEY OF DEATH — A stirring photograph that seems to speak the words, “into the valley of death.” Photographer: Private First Class F.R. Chamberlain
Local Photo ID: 127-GR-95-124582. Original Caption: “OKINAWAN CIVILIANS…Pictured here are Okinawan men, women, and children who have gathered from caves and make-shift homes by Marines on Oroku Peninsula.” Photographer: Corporal John J. Curran
Local Photo ID: 127-GR-98-120681. Original Caption: “NAHA CITIZEN — This emaciated native of Naha, Okinawa, speaking with a Marine officer, was the first man to surrender to the advancing Leathernecks of the Sixth Division during a day’s push into a part of the devastated capitol of the island.” Photographer: Private First Class Robert C. Gray
Local Photo ID: 127-GR-106-121113. Original Caption: “ROADSIDE AID STATION — On the southern Okinawa front between Shuri and Naha, a Marine aid station is established at a busy roadside. As Navy corpsmen attend to the wounded Leathernecks, a walkie-talkie makes contact with rear area forces to prepare for evacuation of the causalities.” Photographer: Corporal Don Hendrickson
Local Photo ID: 127-GR-95-125697. Original Caption: “SEEING THE LIGHT — A Marine rifleman signals his companions to hold their fire as a Japanese soldier emerges from a cave on Okinawa. Persuaded by a smoke grenade, the occupants of the hideout surrendered to the Leathernecks, adding to the large bag of prisoners taken in this island campaign.” Photographer: Private First Class Frank Rogers
Local Photo ID: 127-GR-105-123245. Original Caption: “MARINES ON THE MOVE —Sixth Division Marines pass beneath Japanese Torii Gate on trucks at the front lines of Onayama on the outskirts of Naha.” Photographer: Corporal A.J. Giossi
Local Photo ID: 127-GR-106-120178. Original Caption: “SPECTATORS — Marine machine gunners are interested spectators as a flame-throwing tank smothers a Japanese pillbox with its searing flames. The machine gunners had located the enemy bunker with their weapons.” Photographer: Staff Sergeant W.F. Kleine
Local Photo ID: 127-GR-98-123159. Original Caption: “Marines of the Sixth Division rush past a very perplexed Okinawan oldster during the fighting on the island.” Photographer: Private First Class S. Weiner
Local Photo ID: 127-N-121177. Caption: B Company, 1st Battalion, move up to reinforce A Co. Okinawa. Photographer: Bob Bailey
Local Photo ID: 127-GR-98-123160. Original Caption: “TRAGEDY OF WAR — PhM 1/c J.W. Wood, of 616 Grant Street, Atlanta, Georgia, feeds an infant Okinawan found in Naha when the Sixth Division entered the capitol city.” Photographer: Private First Class Bob C. White
Local Photo ID: 127-GR-106-122391. Original Caption: “Marine stands in the wreckage of a theatre building in Naha.” Photographer: Corporal Arthur F. Hager
Local Photo ID: 127-MN-128883. Original Caption: “Pfc. Sandoval is a radio operation in the III Phib Corps Signal Bn, and his home, and that of his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Julian Sandoval, is in Farmington, New Mexico.” Date: April 14, 1945. Photographer: Chas. Miller

*For additional World War II Marine photographs taken on Okinawa, please visit our catalog here, where you can view and download digitized images.*

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Generally, copies of photographic records held by the National Archives may be published without special permission or additional fees. The National Archives does not grant exclusive or non-exclusive publication privileges. Copies of Federal records, as part of the public domain, are equally available to all. A small percentage of photographs in our holdings are or may be subject to copyright restrictions. The National Archives does not confirm the copyright status of photographs but will provide any information known about said status. It is the user’s responsibility to obtain all necessary clearances. Any use of these items is made at the researcher’s or purchaser’s own risk.

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*Because so many of our requests for information cite credits and captions that appear in published works, the inclusion of a photo number in hard copy and electronic publications is of great assistance to both us and the public.

Examples of preferred credit lines are as follows:

  • National Archives photo no. 80-G-32500
  • Credit National Archives (photo no. 306-NT-186000)
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  • National Archives (111-SC-202199)

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One thought on “Spotlight: Battle of Okinawa

  1. Dear Unwritten Record:

    I have a number of photographs taken on Okinawa during and immediately after the battle. I would like these to be available to the public. You can see an example at:

    Another one is in the oped I was working on at

    There are photos of civilians, destruction, and air views.

    Chris Sullivan

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